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Competitive cyclists, swimmers, and runners are almost universally enthusiastic about "interval training" -- alternating periods of mellow activity with shorter bursts of intense effort -- because in their experience, it improves performance better than any other single kind of workout. This article from the New York Times reports on some new studies that confirm this common wisdom. Interestingly, the benefits of interval training don't seem to be limited to elite athletes. If you want to get in shape, do intervals. Even if the "intense" part for you means shambling down the sidewalk fast enough to make you gasp for breath.

The explanations given in the article for why intervals are so effective for aerobic performance should make intuitive sense to anyone who regularly goes to the gym to lift weights. A muscle won't get bigger or stronger unless you regularly demand more from it than it can give (unless you "go to failure"). Apparently the same thing is true for running or riding really fast. The muscles/mitochondria/waste disposal systems that are needed for the intense stuff make the less intense stuff easier.

All of this makes me miss the mountains even more than usual. Running or riding in the hills is the easiest way I've found to get a good interval workout. When I run Gregory Canyon or Cheyenne Canyon or Palmer Park, the terrain dictates an interval workout. You don't have to waste valuable willpower telling yourself "now I'm going to go really fast." Just tell yourself not to stop, and the terrain will make you hurt without thinking about it!

(Gulp. Looking at all those pictures, now I'm *really* homesick...)

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